Parsimony Lawprinciple Of

Lloyd Morgan's/Morgan's canon = Occam's razor = Occam's principle = economy, principle of. The law of parsimony states that if two scientific propositions, or two theories, are equally tenable, the simpler one is to be preferred. Another name for this law is called Lloyd Morgan's canon in honor of the English zoologist/physiologist Conway Lloyd Morgan (1852-1936). Morgan articulated the principle in 1894 (cf., the German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt who anticipated Morgan's principle in the former's lectures in 1863) and cautioned against the explanatory excesses of the emerging field of comparative psychology by stating that in interpreting an animal's behavior, it is always preferable to adopt the psychologically simplest interpretation (cf., the parsimony principle in biology/evolution, which is the proposition that closely related organisms, having diverged relatively recently in evolutionary history, have fewer differences in their DNA than more distantly related organisms). Thus, Morgan's canon refers to the use of a lower, more "primitive" explanation of phenomena than to assume the activity of a higher, more "mentalistic" functioning [cf., the tendency of the English naturalist George J. Romanes (1848-1894) to anthropomorphize animals' behavior). The canon was very influential in the development of the early behav-iorists' programs and doctrines such as those proposed by J. B. Watson and E. L. Thorn-dike. During Morgan's time, when the proof of Darwin's evolutionary theory was uppermost in the minds of psychologists and biologists, demonstration of Morgan's canon and the law of parsimony was a definite advancement in scientific thinking [note, also, the British philosopher/economist John Stuart Mill's (1806-1873) earlier canons, which are principles that govern inductive reasoning about cause-effect relationships and include the laws of agreement, differences, joint agreement/disagreement, residues, and concomitant variation; cf., law of noncontradiction - a canon of rational thinking stating that if a certain proposition is true, its exact opposite or contradictory is false]. A third name for the law of parsimony is called the principle of economy and refers to a working rule for treatment of scientific data, according to which the simplest available explanation is to be preferred, that is, the explanation that involves the fewest or least complexly related concepts that are adequate. This was known, also, as the law of simplicity (and the principle of ontological economy) that was advanced originally by the English scholastic philosopher William of Occam (or Ockham) (c. 1285-c. 1349). Occam allegedly argued that reality exists only in individual things or events, and he further enjoined "economy" in explanation (e.g., "What can be done with fewer assumptions is done in vain with more"). Today, Occam 's principle is also called Occam's razor -the principle of scientific thinking that the simplest adequate explanation of a thing is to be preferred to any more complex explanations. See also BEHAVIORIST THEORY; DARWIN'S EVOLUTION THEORY; MAL-EBRANCHE'S THEORIES. REFERENCES

York: Harper. Romanes, G. (1884). Mental evolution in animals. New York: Appleton. Morgan, C. L. (1890/1891). Animal life and intelligence. London: Arnold. Morgan, C. L. (1894). An introduction to comparative psychology. London: Scott.

Thorndike, E. L. (1898). Animal intelligence.

New York: Macmillan. Watson, J. B. (1919). Psychology from the standpoint of a behaviorist. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott.

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